A TOWN Green bid that could block a key access route to the new Oxford suburb at Barton West has cleared a major hurdle.
Northway residents want a 4.5 acre green site on Foxwell Drive to become a Town Green, to protect the site from proposals for a new Barton-Northway link road.
Campaigners have now received news that Oxfordshire County Council is to allow the application for Town Green status to go ahead.
After investigating the merits of the bid to ensure it meets necessary guidelines, Richard Goodland, the county council’s principal solicitor, has written to residents to say their application will now be treated as “duly made”.
Individuals and organisations – including the owners of the site, Oxford City Council – will now have the opportunity to raise objections to the land becoming a Town Green.
Local environmental campaigner Sietske Boeles, who led an earlier successful campaign to have Warneford Meadow designated as a Town Green, said: “The prospects of saving this hugely popular green space from development are now excellent.
“In addition, once Foxwell Drive is a registered Town Green, the chance that the nearby Ruskin Fields will ever be developed will also be drastically reduced. “It would no longer be possible to access the land via Foxwell Drive, which is the only realistic access route.
“I appreciate that the proposed Barton link road will be scuppered by a Town Green application but after speaking to a transport expert, I understand that there are alternative options available for linking West Barton with Headington, which would have less devastating impacts on local communities.”
Georgina Gibbs, of the Northway Residents’ group, who submitted the Town Green application in December, said the green space had been used by residents for 60 years.
She said the proposed link road would be used by buses, ambulances, fire engines and police cars. She added: “It would make it unusable, far too dangerous a place for children to play. “This is already an area that is under-provided for when it comes to green space.”
She said residents argued that the green land was used “as of right, ” rather than with permission.
A petition calling for the land to be protected was signed by 1,800 people, she said, with residents now seeking to raise £5,000 to cover legal costs with a series of fundraising efforts.
Oxfordshire County Council spokesman Paul Smith said: “The application has now been judged to have been ‘duly made’ and will soon be published by statutory notices, at which time a six week period for objections will be triggered.
“‘Duly made’ means that the application is technically in order, there are no matters that cause it automatically to be rejected, and should be investigated further.”
After the six week period, the county council will carry out a further review of the application, in light of any objections raised, before a decision is taken by the county council’s Planning and Regulation Committee.
Oxford City Council spokeswoman Louisa Dean said: “We are aware that the county council has declared the Foxwell Drive Town Green application as duly made. “There will now be a public consultation period. “During that time we will be given the opportunity to raise our arguments as to why we believe the land does not qualify as a Town Green.”
TOWN Green applications can be made by people who want to protect green space in perpetuity.
If approved, Town Green status prevents development on the protected land.
On April 25, the Government took away the right of applicants to seek Town Green status for land where there has been a “trigger event”, such as planning consent or the identification of the land as a development site by a local authority.
In 2011, a Town Green application for land earmarked for the new Blackbird Leys swimming pool was made by local residents.
The bid was rejected in March 2012 by Oxfordshire County Council, and an appeal was withdrawn earlier this year.